The Dutch Scheutist Catholic Missionary, Rev. Dr. Francis Senden, CICM, founded the Asian Social Institute (ASI) in June 1962, with a view to create a learning environment for graduate students to understand comprehensively socio-cultural realities in the light of Christian Social teachings, and act on these realities in a way that they will be able to facilitate change while they themselves grow in the process.
With very limited resources, the Asian Social Institute started first with the Graduate School of Economics and Sociology in 1962 requiring three times more units of course work than in other graduate schools in the country. But academic standard was not the only concern of ASI. The Institute had to instill socially-oriented values. ASI did this by course offerings in Social Philosophy and Christian Social Teachings and by establishing social action arms which served to expose the students to concrete socio-economic realities.
In 1963, the Research Unit was added as a significant arm of ASI’s learning and social action components. In 1965, the Family Center of the Asian Social Institute was started hinging on the premise that family life education is of primary importance in order to gear Filipinos towards modernization ideals of total human and people-centered social development. Thus, the Family Center of the Asian Social Institute (FCASI) started in 1965.
In 1979, the Family Center shifted to organizing fisherfolk communities and federated fisherfolk organizations starting with CALARIZ (Cavite, Laguna and Rizal) fisherfolk who were confronted with socio-economic and political issues revolving around the Laguna Lake. In 1984, ASI, CALARIZ and BIGKIS-LAKAS PILIPINAS, the federation that binds together fisherfolk organizations in 48 dioceses in the Philippines drafted and lobbied for a bill known as the Fisheries Code. To date, the Fisheries Code is known as the Fisheries Code 8550.
Due to the demand for social workers, the Institute put up the Social Work Section in June 1965 and in June 1971, a new area of specialization was added under the pioneering Sociology Program titled, “Master of Science in Pastoral Sociology”. Another addition to ASI’s complex of subsidiaries is the ASI Communications Center (ASICC) established for publications in May 1973. On February of 1974, in memory of the Founder, ASI Senden Home, a place that provides shelter, education, formation and training in vocation skills to street children in the city was founded. In 1975, a significant development was the offering of a non-degree course for community development workers who needed more research and social work skills.
To understand in a more palpable way how change processes happen, other units have been started. The Urban Community Development Desk to facilitate the self-empowerment of the marginalized in the urban areas began in 1985. The “Tent School” (in Filipino, “Kulandong”) which uses a socio-linguistic approach for the empowerment of grassroots was born in 1991. In 1995, a Short Term Course Section of ASI was initiated. In 1997, the Diocesan Accompaniment as a unit of the Institute has been formalized after years of experience with guiding dioceses in participatory planning process, pastoral planning and organization of their socio-pastoral programs since 1965. Also in 1997, the coordinatorship of extension services and that of student services has been formalized.
The doctoral program on Applied Cosmic Anthropology with permanent recognition in 1995 by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) of the Philippines is another pioneering endeavor in ASI’s commitment to form people in an interdisciplinary global perspective to social development and in transformative art and skills directed to personal, group and organizational change.
Two more related Social Science-related Programs on the Masteral Level have been established in ASI and permanently recognized in 2008: 1) Master in Social Services and Development (MSSD); and 2) Master of Science in Education (MSE) with Majors either in Transformational Leadership or in Community Development.
The basic foundation on which its first collaborators could build on and take off from, was the life of Rev. Fr. Dr. Francis Senden (Director of ASI from 1962-1973) – a lonely pilgrim, lover of life, lover of the poor, a profound thinker and analysts, yet possessed a sense of humor, a prophet – who truly tried to live fully and uncompromisingly his socio-pastoral ideals. The structure of ASI came from its missionary roots personified in the Founder. He died poor and died for his ideals. His life and his philosophy of education to put resources more on people rather than on physical infrastructure enhanced a climate where people imbibed humane and Christian values that took care of the total person in his/her relationship with God, fellow human beings, society, and nature or the material cosmos.
It has to be mentioned here about the significant role of Very Rev. Drs. Paul van Daelen, CICM whose presence in ASI, though unobtrusive since the Founder’s death, has been responsible – organizationally, financially, and spiritually – in sustaining ASI from its modest beginnings and in critical moments of its life. Fr. Paul van Daelen accompanied ASI’s president, Dr. Mina M. Ramirez and her close collaborators – in incorporating ASI as an educational institute of higher learning in February of 1974; in securing a written agreement regarding the use of the land from His Eminence, Jaime Cardinal L. Sin, D.D; in liaising between ASI and the Catholic Archdiocese of Manila; between ASI and the CICM Congregation and between ASI and some funding partners. As ASI’s Executive Consultant, he has founded the Francis Senden Memorial Foundation (FSMF) with capital donated by CICM houses in Asia (Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Indonesia), Rome, US, Belgium and Holland – in order to facilitate the fulfillment of Rev. Fr. Senden’s socio-pastoral ideals.
One can identify different stages in ASI’s history. The Founder’s Stage (1962-1973), envisioned graduates, trained as policy-makers and leaders, who would implement Christian Social Teachings in various institutional spheres. The graduate programs offered 115 units including the thesis, requiring three times of course work more than what other graduate schools required. It appealed to students who were highly idealistic in their studies.
The second phase of ASI was 1973-1996. This may be termed as the evolution of a movement with the Institute. At the first stage of this phase ASI’s strength was the building of its capacity for organizing grassroots communities, particularly among fisherfolk, urban poor and street children. In the second stage of this period, the educational programs of ASI have become strong: in many outreach programs to dioceses desiring to train professionals in socio-pastoral ministry; in its becoming a consultant to many people-oriented research, social development and or socio-pastoral programs.
The year 1997 ushered in the beginning of a new era for Asian Social Institute (ASI) when it had to bring about a synthesis of the first and second phases of its development. It would strive to root itself in a deeper way based on its experiences in the vision of its founder. This third phase of ASI’s growth from 1997 to the present is the accreditation phase.
In 1998, the three masteral programs: Master of Science in Sociology, Master of Science in Economics and Master of Science in Social Work got Level I (Applicant Status) along voluntary accreditation from the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities Accrediting Agency, Inc. (ACSCU-AAI) as certified by the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines. In 1999, the three programs were granted Level II. In January 2002, these three masteral programs were granted five-year Level II accreditation status. In January 2006, the three programs were granted Level III accreditation status. Meanwhile, the BSSW was granted Level I (Application Status). In 2003, the BS program was granted Level II accreditation status.
To date, the Asian Social Institute (ASI), a specialized social science graduate school has obtained for three of its academic master’s programs (Master of Science in Sociology, Master of Science in Social Work and Master of Science in Economics) as well as for the specialized (one year and two summers) Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (offered to bachelor degree holders of other disciplines) Accreditation Level III status from 2007 to 2012. It has been the first graduate school in the country to obtain such recognition.
It is our conviction that to date we. in ASI, believe that our social science graduate school has achieved throughout its more than 50 years of existence excellence in being a specialized social science school with a difference in that, it has painstakingly been focused in realizing its vision through an integrated learning environment where instruction-research and social development, supported by an administrative organizational structure, management and services are constantly being synchronized synergistically in the attainment of its overarching vision to create a movement of thought, inquiry (research) and action in service of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC).